Rise in district's suicides horrific

LISA KNIGHT AND KELSEY WILKIE
Last updated 12:00 21/08/2014

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A significant rise in the number of suicides in the MidCentral district indicates the region has a "real mental health problem", a community worker says.

Provisional figures out yesterday by the chief coroner show 41 suicide deaths in the past year in the MidCentral District Health Board region, a rise of 23 from the year before.

Of 20 DHB regions in the country, only two others had increases - Canterbury and Hawke's Bay. Nationwide, the total was 529, the lowest number since annual coronial figures began in 2007/2008.

Palmerston North Street Van co-ordinator Lew Findlay said the MidCentral statistics were "horrific". "The growth in suicide in the Manawatu is unbelievable. This shows we've got a real mental health problem here in the central North Island."

He said there needed to be more support services for people with mental health problems or more funding for organisations supporting people in that situation.

Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand chief executive Judi Clements said the rise in suicide rates in MidCentral was very concerning.

"The question I would want to ask is, what sort of care and support is being provided by mental health services there." Suicide prevention was an important issue for everyone working in the sector, she said.

Kim McKelvey, of Palmerston North, said the death of her daughter Jessica in a suspected suicide earlier this year had a huge impact on their family, and she believed mental health services in the region had "failed her miserably".

"I don't know what else she could have done to cry out for help," McKelvey said. "She fell through the [mental health] system . . . and they need to be more accountable for their decisions. People are part of families, they're not just someone with mental illness, they're family members."

MidCentral specialist community and regional services operations director Nicholas Glubb said more than half of the people who committed or attempted suicide were not known to specialist services. "The mental health service leadership is aware that there are a range of improvements to be made in terms of our responsiveness to suspected events of suicide and the manner by which we integrate into our knowledge base learning that may emanate from our reviewing such events." 

HOW TO GET HELP

Lifeline - 0800 543 354 Depression Helpline (8am to midnight) - 0800 111 757

Kidsline (aimed at children up to 14; 4pm to 6pm weekdays) – 0800 54 37 54 (0800 kidsline)

Suicide Crisis Helpline (aimed at those in distress, or those who are concerned about the wellbeing of someone else; noon to midnight) – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)

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Youthline – 0800 376 633, free text 234, email talk@youthline.co.nz

Samaritans – 0800 726 666

thelowdown.co.nz – visit the website, email team@thelow down.co.nz or free text 5626 (emails, text messages answered between noon and midnight). 

- Manawatu Standard

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